Apple Inc chief executive officer Tim Cook, on his first trip to China as the head of the company, has visited an iPhone production plant run by the Foxconn Technology Group (富士康科技集團), which is being accused of improper labor practices.
China is the world’s largest mobile market and already Apple’s second-biggest market overall, but its growth there is clouded by issues ranging from a contested iPad trademark to treatment of -local labor.
Picture handouts dated March 28 and e-mailed to Reuters show Cook seen smiling and meeting workers in the newly built Foxconn ZhengzhouTechnology Park in Hebei Province, China. The facility employs 120,000 people, the handouts said.
Foxconn is a major part of Apple’s global supply chain, assembling most of its iPhones and iPads, but has been hit by a string of worker suicides in recent years that activist groups blame on tough working conditions.
The group is the Taiwanese parent of Hong Kong-listed Foxconn International Holdings (富士康控股) and Taiwan-listed Hon Hai Precision (鴻海精密).
Cook took the reins at Apple in August after the resignation of the firm’s founder Steve Jobs. His closely guarded itinerary has included talks with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強), Beijing’s mayor and a visit to one of Apple’s two stores in the capital.
On Wednesday, state media reported that Li promised Cook the country would boost intellectual property protection.
“To be more open to the outside is a condition for China to -transform its economic development, expand domestic demand and conduct technological innovation,” the Xinhua news agency cited Li as saying.
Apple has tie-ups with China Telecom (中國電信) and China Unicom (中國聯通) to sell its iPhone, with the only other Chinese carrier, China Mobile, the country’s biggest mobile operator, also looking to clinch a deal.
Apple is embroiled in a long-running dispute with Proview (唯冠) — a financially weak technology company that claims to have registered the iPad trademark — that is making its way through Chinese courts and threatens to disrupt iPad sales.